N and I have watched a boatload of movies whilst sitting on the couch being miserable, these last few days (we got totally knocked out by bad colds). The one we saw that has really stayed with me, thought, is The 11th Hour.
The 11th Hour is a documentary brought about by, of all people, Leonardo DiCaprio. He narrates the film. Many well-known scientists (including Stephen Hawking) and environmental activists provide commentary. The visual imagery is pretty stunning. Some shots show the beauty of the natural world, but many show the absolutely disgusting and heartbreaking havoc we have wreaked on it. It really is mind-boggling to see how many natural and man-made disasters are barely covered by the media, and just how many of those events there are that you never hear about.
The title makes obvious the point of the film. We are running out of time to try and halt or reverse climate change. One factoid I learned is that, while the global average temperature has increased only a fraction of a degree, this has increased hurricane rotation speed and duration by half. Probably, a lot of you have heard from documentaries on the History or Discovery Channels that it took only a couple degrees difference in global temperature to bring the planet out of its last ice age.
Here’s the point: there is no longer room for debate as to whether human activity has brought about the changes in climate we are seeing around the world. The energy and food available on this planet are being severely taxed. The world population, according to Wikipedia, never hit one billion until 1804. It did not hit two billion until 1927. Since then, population has increased exponentially, at an ever faster rate, to the nearly seven billion people estimated to be on the earth today. In the past, the earth simply couldn’t sustain that many people. In The 11th Hour, author Thom Hartmann explains the following premise from his book, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: that in the past, humanity lived upon only the energy given to the earth by the sun in a year. Thereafter, we started tapping into earth’s reserves of “ancient sunlight”: oil, carbon, etc. Everyone knows that these “fossil fuels” are short in supply, but does everyone think about what that means? When they run out, things are going to fall apart. We have built vast infrastructures based on oil-run cars and utilities, built up a totally insupportable system of food growing/processing, and badly damaged our clean water supply and forests (Another factoid I learned from the film: just one tree can soak up 57, 000 gallons of water during a flood-who knew?).
I have experienced many changes in myself of late. I am learning, finally, to love myself, and see the holiness within myself. This is allowing me to see this same love and light in all the people that surround me-loved ones, friends, acquaintances and strangers. But I have been leaving out a very important piece of the story. The earth is our home, and it is an incredible one. It is the reason we get to experience life. And yet, we are treating it like garbage. How can I claim to love myself, and everyone else, but not take steps (however small) to reduce the harm we are doing to the earth? In my first kundalini yoga class, after going through the exercises, everyone laid down for deep relaxation. Our teacher instructed us to relax, and to let Mother Earth cradle us. In that moment I truly did feel like I was being held by Mother Earth, and it was an intensely moving, deeply profound experience. I feel this now, my connection to the earth, with each yoga class.
I try to recycle and whatnot, buy small cars that get good gas mileage, and avoid unnecessary waste. I have this feeling, though, that I want to do something bigger. I’m not sure where to start, and I have a lot of doubts about our ability to heal the planet. As The 11th Hour points out, and as we all knew anyway, corporate greed and political collaboration stand in the way of change with utter disregard for our fate. They will not let us loosen our grip on oil dependence, or reduce the disgusting “farming” of animals for food. One of my new projects, as part of my spiritual journey, will be to talk to the people around me about this issue. What can we do to show we care?